The Solitude Room in Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu, India

by Robin Armstrong

Solitude room at the Kumbakonam Ashram

Solitude room at the Kumbakonam Ashram

The Solitude Room in Kumbakonam
This is the room in Tamil Nadu (South India) where I spent 13 months inside without coming out. The windows are barred, shuttered closed and covered by cloth to prevent light from coming in. Food was put in through the little opening with a small door on each side.

This room is on the banks of the Cauvery River. It is one of the stipulations of the solitude rooms that they be by running water, so that when one emerges the mind has a healthy image to align with. This also creates another challenge to overcome and transcend while in solitude …….. mosquitos! They are difficult to ignore when you are the only piece of meat in the room. There was a mosquito net over the bed to minimize the problem.

 

The Bed in the Solitude room at the Kumbakonam Ashram

Inside the Solitude Room in Kumbakonam

The bed is in the center of the room… a concrete slab on a wood frame with an upward support for a mosquito net. A simple mattress was put on the concrete for sleeping. I could walk around the room in circles while I chanted and get some exercise. The dark table in the corner was for me to sit on and eat my meals (twice a day). Against the wall that you can’t see, was a little meditation area with Mota’s photo. There was also an entrance to a small shower and toilet room.

For thirteen months this was my home. I did not venture or even look out. I did not see another human being or even talk to one for this whole time. The only sound to come from my lips during this period was Hari Om and occasionally some other names of God. I did not wear clothes during this time, but there was a small very thin sheet, that could be put around me when the weather got cold and damp!